Experts prioritise bushfire-affected species response

11 February 2020

The Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel has identified a provisional list of 113 animal species as the highest priorities for action to support recovery from the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Among the animals identified for the most urgent management intervention are the Kangaroo Island Dunnart, the Northern Corroboree Frog, the Blue Mountains Water Skink and the Kangaroo Island Glossy Black Cockatoo.

The Panel’s detailed review overlays the status of species before the fires, the area of habitat potentially impacted by fires and the species’ overall vulnerability to fire events.

As the Morrison Government’s initial $50 million wildlife and habitat recovery package flows to states, natural resource managers and zoos to help fund animal treatment, insurance populations, food drops and pest animal control, the Expert Panel’s work is identifying species in most critical need of action for short-term protection and long-term recovery.

The Panel’s scientific advice will help the Government’s on-ground delivery partners to target their efforts to where it is most needed.

Thirteen birds, 19 mammals, 20 reptiles, 17 frogs, 5 invertebrates, 22 crayfish and 17 fish species are identified as the highest priorities for urgent management intervention over the coming weeks and months.

Some species were already threatened before the fires, but this new analysis also includes other mammal, bird, reptile, frog and crayfish species that were not previously considered to be under threat.

While we are not aware of any extinctions due to the bushfires, and while there have been some encouraging sightings of threatened animals in fire-affected places, it is still not safe to enter many areas to make more detailed on-ground assessments.

Dr Box informs me that most of the high priority animals have had at least 30 per cent of their range burnt, and many have had substantially more.

“We are particularly concerned about species like the Kangaroo Island Dunnart and the Blue Mountains Water Skink, which are that much closer to extinction because of the bushfires,” Dr Box explained.

As we commit to a long-term recovery process that will require further financial support, the work of Dr Box and the Expert Panel will remain a high priority.

The Panel’s report does not include plant species at this stage, which are equally important for our environment, and this work is being quickly progressed.

The list of high priority animal species and further information on the Expert Panel’s analysis are available at the Department’s website: https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/bushfire-recovery/research-and-resources